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The Assembly Center in Champaign, Ill. is roughly 676 miles from the Hershey Giant Center.
And I would imagine that the two locations don’t really have a whole lot in common.
But Tom Devenney, a Warwick senior, and Bryan Pearsall, a 2008 grad of Warwick High School, shared a similar bond last Saturday night while wrestling in those respective sites.
Hershey is nicknamed the "Sweetest Place On Earth" for good reason, and for Devenney, he created some sweet memories in the Giant Center over the weekend when he captured the fifth-place medal in the State Triple-A heavyweight brackets.
Meanwhile, as the PIAA State Tournament was proceeding, Pearsall was making some history of his own. He, too, was working hard at the Big Ten Championships in Champaign, Ill. as a fifth-year senior for the Penn State wrestling team on his way to earning a fifth-place medal of his own. With that, he sealed his first-ever trip to the NCAA Division-One Championships, which will be held next Thursday through Saturday, March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa.
To say that it was a good day for Warwick wrestling would be an understatement, wouldn’t it? And I would dare say that the tremendous feats which Devenney and Pearsall accomplished, practically at the same time, were the highlights of their athletic career to this point in time.
In another bit of symmetry, both have Penn State ties. While Pearsall is preparing to leave Happy Valley, Devenney is getting ready to pack his bags to play football for the Nittany Lions starting this fall.
Last March, however, Devenney didn’t know that he would be going to Penn State. He knew that he’d be heading to college somewhere, but his post-high school plans were still a work in progress.
This year, when he walked through the wrestlers’ entrance into the Giant Center and strolled down a long hallway to go to his locker room, his college plans were set in stone. And that had to be a tremendous burden off his mind.
For me, I can’t remember what I had for dinner this past Monday night, but I can still recall seeing the disappointment on Tom’s face last year at this time when he suffered a loss to Bellefonte’s Garrett Poorman just one win shy of a State medal.
So to see him get to the medal stand last Saturday night was really an awesome sight. It truly was heartwarming to see a good thing happen for a good person.
Whether it’s been during football season or wrestling season, Tom’s always made time for me and been a first-class guy.
And I believe if you talk to both his teammates and his opponents that he’s faced throughout the year, they would say the same thing. Although his wrestling career is probably a thing of the past, he is part of a fraternity and a brotherhood with his fellow grapplers. On his own team, Austin Maguire talked after Sectionals about the influence Tom had toward helping him advance to Districts. To those on other teams, win or lose at the end of a match, Tom showed sportsmanship to the guy across from him. He was complimentary toward them in interviews.
Tom, along with Hempfield’s Joey Goodhart and Solanco’s Bo Spiller had quite the rivalry going this winter. They took turns beating each other and they proved that they were not only among the best in the L-L League, but also in District Three and the State, period.
At the League Championships in January, Tom beat Bo for the gold. Then Goodhart won the Sectional and District gold medals. And finally, Tom was the only one of those three to capture a State medal, although both Bo and Joey were right there at the Giant Center. As underclassmen, they will each be a force to be reckoned with next year.
Warwick will definitely miss Tom next year. In addition to his immense talents on the mat, he’s a good guy. He gets it.
So does Bryan Pearsall. He obviously has been a study in perseverance. Wrestling for the past four years at Penn State under legend Cael Sanderson, Bryan has increased his win total every season, from three in 2010, to 13 the following season, then to 15 last year and now to 23 so far this year.
He missed going to Nationals by one place in 2012, taking seventh at the Big Ten’s. He was on the verge of just missing out again last weekend at the University of Illinois, but he found a way and was not denied.
Hearty congratulations to Bryan as well for a job well done. And best wishes to him next week at the NCAA Championships as he tries to make Des Moines, Iowa his own "Sweetest Place On Earth." Talking Sports By
Bruce Morgan More COLUMN, page B-4